Friday, July 8, 2011

Google Plus

You may not have heard yet about Google Plus (Google+) but it sure has been generating a buzz on the tech scene recently. Google+ is a new service (by Google) now in beta testing -  a social service with a fair number of similarities to Facebook and twitter, but also with some unique and powerful functionality. You can check out a demo of it, or read a good review on Google+. I'll describe some of the top features here and a few first impressions (I was lucky to catch the brief window of opportunity to join last night as Google opened the doors following the Facebook video chat announcement.)
  • Circles
Circles allows you to place people you interact with into groups such as friends, family, coworkers, or just people you want to follow. Whenever you share anything - a post, a picture, a link - you get to choose exactly who gets to see it. It's a much nicer and more intuitive security/privacy model than Facebook.
  • Hangouts
This is the most unique and fun feature I see in Google+. A "Hangout" is a group video chat that can be made known to the Circle of friends you specify. Up to ten people can chat, and you see everyone's face - and the person currently speaking gets the main/big window. Very slick.
  • Huddle
The "Huddle" feature is group text chat. Think of a series of text messages, but between whatever circle of friends you want, not just two people. It's the perfect way to decide where to meet for lunch or which movie to see. This should work extremely well on mobile devices like Android phones or iPhones.
  • Photo Sharing via Picassa
People who use Picassa will be happy to hear that Google+ users have their limit raised from like 1GB to unlimited. Android users have a great benefit called "Instant Uploading." Every picture or video taken can (by your choice) be uploaded automatically to your Google+ account. Once there, you get to decide who to share it with (which Circles or individuals).
  • Sparks
This is a way to keep up with news in whatever area(s) of interest you choose.

My Initial Impressions using Google+

- Very well done! I like the interface, very intuitive, excellent feature set.
- Circles and how they are used to share in streams seem to be done to perfection
- Hangouts is the standout in terms of innovation
- Huddles, when available on the iPhone, will be a useful tool. It also seems like a pretty cool way for participants to join in the conversation at an event or seminar. Maybe useful for online meetings or group discussions (for those w/o webcams or desire to Hangout).
- Totally underwhelmed by Sparks. It's just not how I want to keep up with information on a given topic. I would rather find the best pages on a topic and follow them via RSS

Biggest fear -- many friends are already saturated in Facebook, spending too much time there following what is going on. If they try to do this in both Facebook AND Google+, I don't see how they (we? I?) will have any kind of life left!!  If they switch, I'll have half of friends on FB and half in G+; that's definitely not optimal. Let's hope there are integration tools to help address that issue.

One last tidbit - this video clip might clarify how Hangouts work...

Do any of you have any impressions about your experience with Google+, or any questions?

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